QCA axes plan for regional offices

Steve Hook

Britain's qualifications quango has scrapped plans to make itself more accessible to employers by opening regional offices around the country.

Ken Boston, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, had intended that its new division to focus on workforce training would make QCA "more visible" outside London.

But Mary Curnock Cook, head of the division, said she has decided to concentrate the division's staff at the authority's headquarters in order to make the most of "limited resources".

She told FE Focus: "The regional agenda is important but I am not convinced that the sort of things you need in the North-east are that different from the South- west. There are regional characteristics which may have more emphasis, like particular equality issues in Northern Ireland, but the new system will have the flexibility to address that.

"You could also argue that in the tourism industry, for instance, there are differences in people's training requirements between London and the Lake District. But the new system will be flexible enough in itself for employers to meet their local needs.

"My judgment was that we would be more effective in one building. Getting too engaged with the regional agenda would not be an effective use of limited resources."

The division is part of wider QCA reforms to simplify the qualifications system. At present, more than 100 awarding bodies offer more than 4,000 vocational qualifications.

But Ms Curnock Cook said that reducing these numbers is not a part of the masterplan for reform, aimed at providing what Mr Boston describes as "crystal clear" qualifications.

She said: "People are hung up on the number of qualifications and awarding bodies. What the Sector Skills Councils want most of all is more coherence.

"The public needs to understand what qualifications mean. If you talk about A-levels, people know what that means, but vocational qualifications are a long way behind on that score. At present, we have various awarding bodies and employers with their own frameworks for qualifications - that is the problem."

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Steve Hook

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